Simi Valley, California - Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani formally ended his presidential candidacy today and threw his endorsement to John McCain -- though political analysts believe the endorsement will be of negligible benefit
Calling McCain "an American hero," Giuliani announced: "I'd said before that if I had not decided to run for president, John McCain is the one man I'd endorse." McCain accepted the endorsement saying he was "deeply honored" by the nod.
As to his own unsuccessful campaign, Giuliani simply said, "Today I'm officially announcing my withdrawal as candidate for President of the United States."
After Giuliani's humiliating third-place finish Tuesday in the Florida GOP primary -- a contest in which he had staked the entirety of his already sputtering campaign -- today's announcement came as little surprise. Giuliani, flanked by McCain, made his announcement at the Ronald Reagan Library just two hours before the start of the latest GOP presidential debate which was to be held in the same venue.
"Giuliani dropping out it is the important story, not his endorsement of McCain," said Allan Hoffenblum, a California Republican strategist. "This was supposed to be the day that McCain drops out and Giuliani moves on to Super Tuesday, but, alas, it's the other way around."
Hoffenblum's view reflects the consensus of other strategists -- both Republican and Democratic -- who believe the Arizona senator will reap few concrete benefits from Giuliani's support.
The unorthodox and ultimately fatal strategy of not aggressively contesting the early-voting states like Iowa and South Carolina prevented Giuliani from consolidating any significant national constituency that could now be re-directed toward McCain in his battle against Mitt Romney. Giuliani only garnered a slim 18 percent of voters in Florida's primary, finishing just a few points ahead of scantly-funded Mike Huckabee.
More significantly, Giuliani's moderate social views and relative positioning in the center of the Republican Party directly overlaps with McCain's own base of support and offers little re-enforcement of the latter's weak right flank. Florida exit polls, as well as numerous national surveys, show a disproportionate amount of McCain's support coming from moderate Republican and independent voters. He is also still encountering significant resistance from the GOP's more conservative base.
Mitt Romney is expected to now escalate his assault on McCain, who he has called a "liberal," in order to galvanize conservative Republicans. "The big question is how far more to the right will Romney go in an attempt to stop McCain, and will the GOP right-wing put together a coordinated effort to stop McCain even though they know it would most likely seal a GOP defeat in November," said consultant Hoffenblum.
The endorsement from Giuliani provides no political cover for McCain in this latest phase of the Republican struggle, one likely to further erupt during Wednesday night's televised debate from the Reagan Library.
"My guess is that if it becomes Clinton, or better said, the Clintons v. McCain, the Republican right-wing will either stay home or vote against McCain," said Hoffenblum, underscoring the Arizona senator's unpopularity to the hard right.
Giuliani and his supporters entered the '08 campaign with high hopes that "America's Mayor," as the 63-year-old candidate was called, would be able to parlay his high name recognition and his post-9/11 image as a strong defender of national security into the Republican nomination.
In late 2001, Time magazine dubbed him "Person of the Year" and splayed Giuliani across its cover as a sort of political Superman. Depicted atop a skyscraper, he was anointed "Rudy Giuliani -- tower of strength."
But during the campaign, Giuliani's personal integrity was repeatedly dinged, especially his association with former New York police commissioner Bernard Kerik who has pleaded guilty to accepting gifts from a company linked to organized crime.
Counting on his name and initial national popularity, Giuliani refused to participate in the early Iowa caucuses and made only a half-hearted stab in new Hampshire. He also balked in South Carolina, repeatedly promising that he would shock the skeptics with a clear victory in delegate-rich Florida, America's fourth most populous state. But Giuliani's absence from the fray cost him dearly as his campaign slowly but surely began to fade and fail.
His disappointing finish in the Sunshine State on Tuesday effectively sealed the destiny of his campaign, which formally folded this afternoon as little more than an asterisk amidst the storm of the presidential cycle.
McCain took advantage of the brief encounter with the press to tout his own candidacy saying that "it will be a clear choice this November and and I believe my life has prepared me" to lead America in a time of a great peril.
McCain cut the press conference off when reporters asked Giuliani to assess what had gone wrong in is own campaign.